There are about 18 million veterans in the U.S., of which about 13 million are over the age of 50, according to recent data from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). With so many veterans either in retirement or nearing their golden years, SmartAsset looked into the best cities for military retirees to live in.
There are a number of factors that make a city or town a good place for veterans to retire such as military friendliness, access to resources and the local economic environment. In this study, SmartAsset compared 200 of the largest cities in the country across eight metrics spanning those three categories. For more details on how we analyzed the data and compiled the rankings, read the data and methodology section below.
This is SmartAsset’s latest study on the best cities for military retirees. Check out the previous version here.
- Three Northwest cities rank in the top five for the second year in a row. They include Anchorage, Alaska; Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Vancouver, Washington. All three cities rank particularly well for our military retirement friendliness category with veterans over the age of 65 making up more than 2.5% of each city’s total population.
- Veterans in top-ranked cities have a poverty rate that is 2.2% lower than the national average. On average across the top 10 cities, 5.0% of veterans live below the poverty line. In comparison, nationally, 7.2% of veterans live in poverty.
1. Anchorage, AK
In Anchorage, Alaska, 2.60% of the population is made up of veterans who are 65 and older, which is the 40th-highest percentage for this double-weighted metric. Meanwhile, Anchorage ranks No. 35 for the its low unemployment rate (2.9%) and No. 91 for the percent of veterans living under the poverty line (7.9%). For military retirees who are seniors, the city offers the lowest tax burden (14.78%) across the study.
2. Roseville, CA
Roseville, California ranks seventh-best for its military retirement friendliness index and eighth-highest for its economic environment ranking. Roughly 3% of the population in Roseville are veterans aged 65 and older (15th-highest) and the area offers the 22nd-highest income for veterans ($61,953).
3. Sioux Falls, SD
Sioux Falls, South Dakota remains No. 3 this year due to its continued strong rankings. Sioux Falls boasts a spot among the top 20 cities for our resources for veterans category. In particular, we estimate that there are about 21 VA health facilities and almost two VA benefits administration offices, both per 100,000 veterans.
4. Lakewood, CO
Colorado ranks sixth-best state for the number of VA benefits administration offices per capita, offering 2.30 offices per 100,000 veterans. The city of Lakewood additionally ranks 18th overall for its strong economic environment, which is made up of these three metrics: median veteran income ($53,957), percentage of veterans living under the poverty line (4.8%) and August 2022 unemployment rate (3.0%).
5. Vancouver, WA
Vancouver, Washington ranks second-best for our military retirement friendliness category. Specifically, Vancouver also has the fourth-highest percentage of veterans ages 65 and older (4.03%) and a low estimated senior tax burden (22.02%).
6. Overland Park, KS
Overland Park, Kansas has the second-best ranking for the economic environment index across all 200 cities in our study. Unemployment is low, with only 2.6% of workers out of work in August 2022 (18th-lowest overall). Additionally, Overland offers the 60th-highest number of retirement communities per capita, at 16.53.
7. Chesapeake, VA
Chesapeake, Virginia showcases a top 20 ranking in two metrics: percentage of the population who are veterans ages 65 and up (3.22%) and median veteran income level ($76,406). Chesapeake seniors are less likely to be living under the poverty line with roughly 5.0% of this demographic in this position currently.
8. Surprise, AZ
Surprise, Arizona held a few surprises for us when stacked against the 200 other cities in our study. For starters, the city ranks in the top 10 for both its military retirement friendliness and economic environment. Additionally, this Phoenix suburb took the number one spot in the ranking for the percentage of the population who are veterans ages 65 and older (4.51%) and has the second-lowest veteran poverty rate (1.4%).
9. Oceanside, CA
Oceanside, California moved up one spot this year in the overall rankings for military retirees. Located between Los Angeles and San Diego, the city of Oceanside ranks well for its relatively low percentage of veterans living under the poverty line (5.0%), which is the 28th-lowest across our study. Veterans in Oceanside also earn roughly $58,369, the 34th-highest median income for veterans across the study.
10. Peoria, AZ
Peoria, Arizona rounds out this year's top 10 rankings for the best places for military retirees. Peoria ranks in the top 20 cities for two metrics: percentage of veterans under the poverty line (3.6%) and percentage of population who retired veterans (3.36%). The median veteran income is $60,739, further demonstrating the area’s strong economic environment for veterans.
Data and Methodology
To conduct our study, we compared 200 of the largest cities in the U.S. in eight metrics across three categories:
Military Retirement Friendliness
- Percentage of the population who are veterans ages 65 and older. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2021 1-Year American Community Survey.
- Retirement communities per 1,000 residents. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2020 County Business Patterns.
- Estimated senior tax burden. This estimates the income and sales tax burden for seniors. Specifically, we calculated effective income tax rates based on a retiree earning $35,000 annually (from retirement savings, Social Security and part-time employment). We subtracted income taxes paid from gross income to determine disposable income. From there, we factored in sales taxes, assuming disposable income was spent on taxable goods. Data comes from SmartAsset’s tax calculators and Avalara.com.
Resources for Veterans
- VA health facilities per 100,000 veterans. Data come from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau’s 2021 1-year American Community Survey.
- VA benefits administration offices per 100,000 veterans. Data come from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau’s 2021 1-year American Community Survey. This metric is at the state level.
- Median veteran income. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2021 1-Year American Community Survey.
- Veteran poverty rate. This is the percentage of veterans living under the poverty line. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2021 1-Year American Community Survey.
- August 2022 unemployment rate. Data comes from the 2022 Bureau of Labor Statistics and is at a county level.
First, we ranked each city in each metric, assigning an equal weight to every metric, except for the percentage of the population who are veterans ages 65 and older and veteran poverty rate - both of which are double-weighted.
Then we averaged the rankings across the three categories listed above. For each category, the city with the highest average ranking received a score of 100. The city with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0. We created our final ranking by calculating each city’s average score for all three categories.
Retirement Planning Tips
- Is your retirement plan on track? SmartAsset’s free retirement calculator can help you calculate just how much money you’ll need to save before retiring.
- Calculate your Social Security benefits. Social Security plays an important role in the retirement of most Americans. SmartAsset’s free social security calculator can help you estimate what your benefits will be based on your age and income.
- Work with a professional. A financial advisor can help you assess what your income needs will be in retirement and create a plan to meet them. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors in your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
Questions about our study? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: ©iStock/annebaek